Things for Leatherworking

I have a friend that is trying to learn 120 things in 20 years.  Well, one of those internet friends whom I will never meet in real life. He mentioned that he was thinking about learning Leatherworking as a thing so I thought I would give a primer on the subject. Not that I am an expert or anything. Sometimes starting is the hardest part, and not knowing what to start with is a lot of the reason to not start.

My half done leather messenger bag.

A good intro into all the words used in leatherworking can be found at https://www.tandyleather.com/en/leather-buying-guide.html.

Leather is sold by weight. Weight per square foot in ounces. The thicker the leather, the heavier the leather, the larger the number. There are charts out there there that will approximate the weight to the thickness to the scale of 1 oz equals 1/64th of an inch. Or thereabouts.

Thicker leather is used for different things than thinner leather. Next time you have something made out of leather, feel the thickness of the leather. Think about why that thickness of leather was used.

There are different ways they make leather – chrome tanned or veg tanned. This is different ways that it is made, different chemistry. I would imagine that there are different strengths and weaknesses for each type, but I don’t know the details. I get whatever is cheapest at the time.

Once you find your leather, you will also need a few things to get started. A cut thing, a stitch thing, likely a few hole things, marking things, and possibly a hit thing.

Cut things are pretty important. I see a lot of videos where people use a disposable razor knife, which seems to work well. They sell expensive half circle knives, which look like they work really well. I’ve made one, but have yet to try it on leather. I use a rotary cutter and like it.

Stitch things are really important. I use two types of needles. Harness Needles and Glovers Needles. Harness needles are not really sharp and are good for going through existing holes. They tend to be used two at a time, one on each end of the thread. You end up making a stitch that looks like a sewing machine stitch, but is much better. The stitches this way don’t unravel easily if cut like from a machine. Glovers needles are wicked sharp and are used on thinner leather like it is cloth. The two threads I’ve tried are the waxed thread and artificial senew. I like the waxed thread better.

There are lots of ways to make holes. The hole things are the second expensive thing to buy, after the leather. You can use them to make little holes to stitch in and you can make not so little but still small holes to put rivets and snaps into. The simplest hole tool is the awl. This makes small holes. I’ve found that some awls are better than others. Long, thin, well tapered and smoothed awls like a needle work better than cheaper awls with a simple angled ground tip like a nail. I’ve not tried making one yet, but I have a few broken drill bits I may give a try to grind. You can get round hole punches which are handy. The kind that looks like a punch and needs a mallet is fussy to use, but can be used to make holes that aren’t near an edge of the leather. The type that looks like a pinwheel crossed with a paper punch is easier to use, but only works near the edges of the leather. My favorite hole tool is the stitching punches. These are the most expensive, but singularly made my work look better. I didn’t skimp on these, getting the nicer set available at the store. Getting nice even stitches is a huge improvement on the niceness of the finished product.

Nice stitching punches.

Mark things help layout and measuring and stuff. I find ball point pens work well. In woodworking, they say if you want to make a line, use a pencil, if you want a fine line, use a sharp pencil, if you want a perfect cut, use a knife. I do a lot of marking with my knife, but I prefer using an awl – it leaves a good mark but doesn’t cut the surface weakening the leather. I picked up a cheap divider (looks like the old geometry class compass) and use it for marking stitch lines along the edges of the leather. This trick with the stitching punches is what made my work go from a total hack job to not bad.

I use a simple stick as my hit thing. Why buy something that I found in my yard?

A stick found in the yard works as a mallet.

I’ve done a bit of reading, and a lot of youtube watching to learn how to do a bit of leatherworking. It’s hard at first to sort out who knows what they are talking about and who’s not any better than I am. Once you find a good youtube author, give ’em a subscribe so you can keep getting more of the better videos.

The struggle is real

Internet of Things Phone Smart Charger

I pre-ordered one of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 phones. The ones in the news recently for being an explosion hazard.

I love the new phone – pocket computer really, the way I use it. I wasn’t about to give it up over some silly thing like spontaneous combustion.

I had read that Tesla runs their car batteries between 40%-80% for normal use to maximize the lifetime of their very expensive car batteries. I figured that cell phone batteries would benefit from similar treatment. A bit of research generally confirmed this, with http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_prolong_lithium_based_batteries being the most concise write-up. The first half basically demonstrates that you can get the same amount of total power to flow through the battery regardless of how much you charge it – summed over the total life of the power draw in the data tables. The 2nd half is more interesting. It says that high voltage charges and heat shorten the overall lifespan of the battery.

The Note7 is a sealed phone wihtout a replaceable battery. I can’t pull my usual trick of replacing the battery after a year of abusing it.

Heat seams to be the trigger for the phone explosions. So I can make my phone more safe, and make it last longer by managing the top voltage and heat in the battery.

I can do this.

I bought a wireless Qi charger to charge the phone because it charges slower. The fast charger can charge the phone crazy fast, but it gets HOT when it does this. Hot is bad. Thus, slow is good. The wireless charger will also reduce wear on the USB C port. A nice side benefit. No phone explosions while I sleep and burn the house down – this is a good thing.

I bought a Belkin WEMO wifi controlled outlet. It is If-This-Than-That (IFTTT.com) capable so I can control it from my phone. There are other smart plugs available that will work, this is simply the one I could find in a store that I could verify would work with IFTTT.

I configured IFTTT to have 2 different actions. One for turning the WeMo on, the other off. I set these up as Maker Channel triggered recipes. There are other triggers that you can use such as email or SMS, but I am a web developer, so web-based triggers are a natural fit for me.

Image of The Rules set up in IFTTT
The Rules set up in IFTTT
Photo of the IFTTT Off rule
The OFF rule in IFTTT. It uses the Maker Chanel for the trigger, which means a web request will trigger this. It turns off the WeMo controlling the wireless phone charger.

I installed Tasker on the phone and configured it to monitor charge state and battery temperature.

I created 3 tasks, one to turn the charger on, and two to turn it off.

photo of Tasker rules
The rules in Tasker to control the phone charging.

The ON trigger looks for the battery to be below 80% charged, and below 35 degrees Celsius. This will make a request to the IFTTT.com Maker Chanel URL for ON.

One OFF trigger looks at the battery temperature. 35.1 degrees or higher. The other OFF trigger looks for the battery charge to be 90% or higher. These two both make a web request to the IFTTT.com Maker Chanel OFF URL I set up.

So now as the phone battery heats up or gets close to full, the phone tells the charger to turn off. I let the phone have a 10% charge window so I am not toggling the switch and charger on and off all night long.

Tasker with both OFF rules turned on. The phone is both charged to 90% or more as well as running hotter than I would like.
Tasker with both OFF rules turned on. The phone is both charged to 90% or more as well as running hotter than I would like.

I also programed the WeMo to turn itself on a little while before my alarm is set to go off. This is to let the battery be closer to 90% charged rather than 80% charged when I wake up. I haven’t found the right time for this yet. I still need to play with it a bit.

I know there are other ways to make a smart phone charger. This is what I came up with. I will be getting an additional smart plug and building one for at the office so I don’t over-charge my phone when at work. I will try a different brand likely to see if I can come up with a cheaper way.

Got the old forge lit today

I made a fire steel. A friend came over and he worked on a small hatchet from an old hammer. He also helped my eldest start a fire with a Ferro Rod. Her first fire. She was struggling, but pushed through the frustration, and succeeded!

In album 8/14/16

I recently picked up a used CNC Router

It's a big machine for the hobby side of things. I think they call it a 60150. It will hold a 2 foot by 4 foot piece. 220v water cooled spindle. It's a solid machine.

It had been suffering from disuse – not neglect, just simple not getting used enough. Rust pitting on the important bits and some rusting on the threaded rods. A couple of years in an unheated garage without being used to re-coat all the parts in oil will do this.

Not too much work to clean it up. It took a couple of evenings over a couple of weeks. Last night I got the electrical stuff all sorted and got it to move!

So I dug up a bucket, and connected water and electricity to the same spot on the machine. This is generally a bad idea in my experience.

It cuts! A little bit of tweaking, and it cuts correctly!

About an hour into running it, it gave an error and shut down. Not really sure why, but I think it's because the controller got hot. There was a reading of 75c on the screen when I was pushing buttons. I think I found why the controller box was open.

Next project is to improve the airflow in the controller box. I have a plan for this. I will install rubber grommets around the holes the wires poke through too.

I also need to learn about "Speeds and Feeds". CNC Routers have an ideal window where they work well for a given material. The 3D printing methodology of slowing down, sorting things out, then speeding back up does NOT apply to CNC Routing it appears.

Lots of photos in the album. Each one is captioned.

CNC Router Refurb
27 new photos · Album by Mike Creuzer